For the first time since Game 4 of the 2003 NLCS the Chicago Cubs won a postseason game propelling them to a truly divisional series against their bitter foe the St. Louis Cardinals. Last night Jake Arrieta did his thing as he dominated the Pirates hitters and only saw himself get jammed up once in the sixth after a botched ground ball by Addison Russell. The Cubs would bounce right back as the very next batter would hit into a 6-4-3 double play to get out the inning and end all hopes of Pittsburgh getting themselves back into the game. Offensively Kyle Schwarber did all the damage as he recorded three RBI’s in the first three innings with a blooper to right and splash down to left. Dexter Fowler would add a meaningless home run later in the game, but the game was over once Arrieta got handed the ball at 7:08. Arrieta pitched a shutout four hitter with 11 strikeouts which was the first time a double digit strikeout performance was coupled with a shutout in the playoffs.
However all that is over with now and while last night was enjoyable it only got the 97 win Cubs where they should’ve been all along. The Cubs have now won nine in a row and immediately the thought starts going to whether or not they can continue this recent success into the postseason run. A team like the 2007 Rockies immediately comes to mind as they closed the season winners of 14/15. The Rockies then of course ran the table in the National League Playoffs before getting eight days off prior to the beginning of the World Series in Boston. Hopefully the Cubs can duplicate that success and change the course of history as the Rockies were swept soundly by Boston. The first up on the docket in these 2015 playoffs for Chicago is the team that has owned them throughout the history of their respective franchises the St. Louis Cardinals. The series will open on Friday with Jon Lester opposing former teammate John Lackey. The two won a World Series with the Red Sox just two years ago, a series in which the Cubs starter Lester would’ve been named MVP had it not been for David Ortiz’s Ruthian production over the six games.
This series for Chicago comes down to offensive production. How well can the bats for Chicago do against what is now a banged up Cardinals rotation. John Lackey has done well against the Cubs this season, but Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn have had their struggles with Joe Maddon’s lineup. Another big question will be who starts after Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Kyle Hendricks will more than likely get the ball in Game 2 on Saturday but don’t expect him to have a long leash if he’s to get intro trouble. The Cubs have guys like Jason Hammel and Dan Haren ready and able to eat innings. Game 3 will more than likely be Arrieta again which is why Game 1 will be so critical for both teams. Lester needs to regain that postseason magic that he had for the Red Sox both in 2013 and 2007. He’s known as a big game pitcher and tomorrow will be certainly that.
The Cardinals and Cubs appear to be going in opposite directions, however a team that won 100 games is usually never considered going in any negative direction. The Cardinals are still the Cardinals and they’ll always be in the psyche of the Cubs fans. The short series doesn’t allow for especially favorable pitching scenarios for the Cubs, that’d come in the LCS. The five game series means the Cubs need to get an advantage in St. Louis or they’re going to be chasing and they won’t be able to fully receive the benefit of Arrieta.
The Cubs should win the series and with the momentum they’re carrying from this win streak to end the season and now the Wild Card it should allow them to thrive against a team they’ve won the last two regular season series over. It might very well be a quick three game sweep and rest. In the past the team that has won the Wild Card Game has gone on to do good things in the postseason. First pitch tomorrow is 5:45PM CDT again on TBS.